Budget standards are specified baskets of goods and services which, when priced, can represent predefined living standards. ‘Low cost but acceptable’ (LCA) is a minimum income standard, adequate to provide warmth and shelter, a healthy and palatable diet, social necessities, social integration, avoidance of chronic stress and the maintenance of good health (physical, mental and social) in a context of free access to good-quality health care, good-quality education and social justice. The LCA food budget standard identifies a basket of foods and corresponding menus which provides (for a given household composition) a palatable diet that is consistent with prevailing cultural norms, and that satisfies existing criteria for health in relation to dietary reference values, food-based dietary guidelines and safe levels of alcohol consumption. Two previous studies that explored the relationship between diet and food expenditure in low-income households suggested that the amount spent on food was a good predictor of dietary adequacy, growth and health in children. The current paper will focus on diet and measures of deprivation in 250 low-income households in London. Households were screened for material deprivation (e.g. no car, no fixed line telephone, in receipt of Income Support) using a doorstep questionnaire. Diet was assessed using four 24 h recalls based on the ‘triple pass’ method. Expenditure on food and other aspects of household circumstances were assessed by face-to-face interview. Food expenditure in these households was characterized in relation to food budget standards. Further analyses explored the relationships between food expenditure and dietary adequacy, growth in children and measures of deprivation.